BASIL RAMSEY invites you to discover that Samuel Barber wrote more than
I do not find the oft-mentioned stylistic boundaries of Samuel Barber's
music relevant to anything alarming. His ease and skilful flights in clouds
of lyricism produce the colourful and intrinsically musical effects he sought.
His opus 1 of 1929, a three-movement Serenade for Strings, started life
scored for quartet. As lightweight music goes, this is tuneful, resourceful
in language, and a mere nine minutes over three movements. What a shame
that is not included in the standard group of serenades led by Elgar and
Dag Wiren heard regularly in Europe.
Another of Barber's earlyish pieces, not previously recorded and originally
written for a radio programme, is Horizon, seeming to conjure shimmering
heat and stillness on the horizon, although there's no authority for my
suggestion. It shows another facet of Barber, and his fanciful way of expression
The Capricorn Concerto is bravura writing in a Brandenburg concerto
format. Flute, oboe, and trumpet take the concertante role and ride the
orchestra brilliantly. Another shadow can be seen intermittently, but Bach
and Stravinsky make good partners, and would be the first, I'm sure, to
clap this irresistable creation.
From a different world comes Knoxville: Summer of 1915, a setting
of words by James Agee that met a need in Barber's family life in 1947.
Ruth Golden brings a good dramatic voice to this deeply-felt music. Something
genuine as opposed to mere construction touches us, and we know.
Material from Horizon provides the motivation for Summer Music,
a single movement for woodwind quintet, which keeps a gentle breeze
in play with suitable touches of calm and tranquillity.
The inevitable Adagio concludes the programme, and any feeling we have
of déjà-vu is entirely due to musical publicists who
invariably act like carrion crows when something delectable is discovered.
As long as we pay suitable respect to the composer who wrote such a finely-drawn
piece of elegiac music, probably by listening well to his other music.
Copyright © Basil Ramsey,
July 18th 1999
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San Diego Chamber Orchestra / Donald Barra
with Ruth Golden, soprano and the Arioso Wind Quintet
Producer, Michael Fine; Engineer Larry Rock
Koch International 3-7206-2H1
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